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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 November, 2003, 11:36 GMT
New York hosts Indian film festival
By Salim Rizvi in New York

Apporva Lakhia is a young Indian filmmaker who lives in Brooklyn, New York, but makes films set in the villages of the north Indian desert state of Rajasthan.

Pamela Rook's 'Dance Like a Man' stars Anoushka Shankar
His film Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost (My friend has come from Bombay) even stars Bollywood performers Abhishek Bachchan and Lara Dutta.

"The dichotomy of living and being educated in New York, and making a film on rural India was quite a challenge. But I made what I believed in," says Lakhia.

He is one of the many filmmakers of Indian origin living abroad whose work is being showcased in a five-day-long film festival The Indian Diaspora, organised by the Indo-American Arts Council in New York.

Some 18 feature and documentary films are being shown at the festival, which runs from 5 - 9 November.

They are a mixture of the work of old stalwarts like Mira Nair and new filmmakers like Lakhia.

Most of the films - in both English and Hindi - revolve around the life of the south Asians living in America and are shot entirely in the US.

Some of them even feature Bollywood stars like Naseeruddin Shah, Jackie Shroff, Abhishek Bachchan and Lara Dutta.

Novelist Salman Rushdie will be giving away the prize to the award winning films.

'Snap, crackle and pop'

Like Lakhia, Nisha Ganatra graduated from New York University. She went on to make Chutney Popcorn, a rip-roaring comedy about family and friends.

`Cosmopolitan' is a comedy about a first generation Indian in the US
The film mopped up a number of international awards and earned rave reviews --one American critic called it "snap, crackle and pop".

Ms Ganatra's new feature, Cosmopolitan, another comedy, is being shown at the festival.

The film, starring veteran performers like Roshan Seth and Madhur Jaffrey, is about the comic exploits of Gopal, a first-generation Indian living abroad.

Manish Gupta, who quit his job as a computer programmer in New York to take a degree in filmmaking, is also showing his first film at the festival.

Indian Fish in American Waters is a contemporary romantic comedy involving Asians living in America.

"I had this dream of doing something big in my life, so I decided to make a film. I made a lot of arty films at the film institute, so I thought of trying something different like making people laugh," says Mr Gupta.

The spirited diaspora filmmaking is now transcending national boundaries and political differences.

Crossing boundaries

Indian-born American actor Bobby Routh acted in the film Genuis, which is directed by Pakistani director Babar Ahmed.

Apoorv Lakhia worked as a bartender before taking up films
Routh, who hails from Calcutta, India, and now lives in Queens, New York, has no problems working with a Pakistani director.

"National backgrounds do not matter. What matters is art," he says.

He feels diaspora films are helping change the image of Indians among Americans.

"People are seeing the Indian influence. We are not cab drivers and gas station owners. We are much more," says Mr Routh.

It has not been easy though for many directors to embark on their careers.

Apporva Lakhia, who worked as a bartender in New York and got his first break with Mira Nair's film company as a production assistant, says it was a struggle to fulfil his ambitions.

"Since I had no experience I was not paid a penny when I started. I had to move to Florida with only $350," he said.

"But I was determined. And halfway through a film my boss decided to pay me as he was happy with my work."

Since then Lakhia has worked in big Hollywood films like Perfect Murder and Die Hard 3.

Among the prominent films to be shown at the festival is veteran director Pamela Rook's `Dance Like a Man' starring Arif Zakaria and Anoushka Shankar.

The is the first film of Anoushka, daughter of sitar maestro, Ravi Shankar.

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